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Release No. 1005


Press Office
(202) 205-1134

USDA Forest Service Honors First African-American Smokejumpers

WASHINGTON, March 26, 2010—The last three living original members of the nation’s first African-American smokejumpers crew have been honored at USDA Forest Service Headquarters. The “Triple Nickles” were from the 555th Parachute Infantry Battalion and were trained by the Forest Service to put out forest fires in the Northwest during the summer of 1945. Combat-ready, the “Triple Nickles” served a unique, secret assignment called “Operation Firefly.”

“These highly skilled paratroopers used their military training in a different kind of combat few people were aware of,” said USDA Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell. “Fighting the fires that had the potential to do great harm to the nation in a time of war was dangerous, important work. We are extremely pleased to honor them at our national headquarters for their heroic service to the agency and the nation making more than 1,200 individual jumps during the summer of 1945.”

The Triple Nickles served in more airborne units, in peace and war, than any other parachute group in history. The 555th paved the way for African-American soldiers to become part of the prestigious 82nd Airborne Division, when the triple Nickles were absorbed into the 82nd Airborne in 1947.

The 555 Parachute Infantry Association located in Tampa, Florida was founded in 1979 to keep alive the legacy of the Triple Nickles.  There are more than 1,000 members in 28 Triple Nickles chapters. For more information, visit:  www.triplenickles.com

The mission of the USDA Forest Service is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of   the nation’s forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations.  The agency manages 193 million acres of National Forest System land, provides stewardship assistance to non-federal forest landowners and maintains the largest forestry research organization in the world.  For more information, visit: www.fs.fed.us


USDA is an equal opportunity provider, employer and lender. To file a complaint of discrimination, write: USDA, Director, Office of Civil Rights, 1400 Independence Avenue, SW, Washington, DC 20250-9410 or call (800) 795-3272 (voice), or (202) 720-6382 (TDD).

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Last modified March 29, 2013

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